Ah, this is an important day for me. It's my Mom's birthday.
My Mom, Marian Sowers Mertz, was born this day in 1920, and passed away in 2002. She instilled
in me a love of art, music, and literature, as well as an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. She learned
to use her first computer, and wrote a book (the true story of a local murder in 1900), after the age of
80. There is some talk now of making her book into a film.
She gave up a promising career in music (she was a classical pianist) to raise a family. She left my dad,
who had become a beligerent alcoholic, in 1970, and became a respected District Magistrate. Her home
was a gathering place for all of the most interesting people in the area - I always called her the Gertrude
Stein of Mifflintown.
She and I shared many of the same tastes in the arts, not least of which was a love of the Pogues. Although
her surname and married name were of German extraction, her lifelong geneological studies centered on
tracing her Irish ancestry. She gave me the middle name "Brennan" in honor of our Irish forbears.
So happy birthday, Mom. I love you, and I miss you everyday.
This is also the birthday of Billie Holiday, one of the most sublime natural talents America has ever produced.
Born this day in 1915, she recorded dozens of sides from the 1930s until the 1950s, all of which are absolutely
amazing - from the perfect, horn-like tone ofher youthful voice, to the tragic, incredibly moving last recordings
of a lost soul, ravaged by drugs and drink, but still capable of great art.
I've been listening to my Mom's copy of Billie's complete Decca recordings
this morning - "Don't Explain", "The Blues Are Brewing", "Lover Man",
"Good Morning Heartache". Later I'll break out the 78s and listen to
"Fine and Mellow" and the harrowing 1939 classic, "Strange Fruit"
It really doesn't get any deeper than that.
Born this day in 1920, Maestro Ravi Shankar.
My Mom and I used to listen to Ravi in the 60s, (we got Three Ragas out of the local library) but she
never knew that they shared the exact same birthday.
With Hari Georgeson in 1967
On this day in 1805, Beethoven's Third Symphony (Eroica)
was performedfor the first time. My Mom loved Beethoven.
This was the first symphony I remember her turning me on
On this date in 1938, LSD was first synthesized. Nope, my Mom never did acid
(that I know of) so I can't relate this event to her.
On this date in 2003 US forces captured Baghdad.
They were greeted as liberators and everyone lived happily ever
Also Born This Day:
1770 – William Wordsworth, who wrote:
A multitude of causes unknown to former times are now acting
with a combined force to blunt the discriminating powers of
the mind, and unfitting it for all voluntary exertion to reduce
it to a state of almost savage torpor.
1922 – Mongo Santamaria
1931 – Daniel Ellsberg, who said:
We were young, we were foolish, we were arrogant, but we were
1939 – Francis Ford Coppola
1939 – Sir David Frost
1960 – Buster Douglas
1965 - Alison Lapper
Alison Lapper MBE is an English artist who was born
without arms. She uses photography, digital imaging
and painting to, as she says, question physical
normality and beauty, using herself as a subject.
She paints with her mouth. One particular influence
is the sculpture Venus de Milo, due to the physical
similarities between the idealized classical female
statue and Lapper's own body. She has taken part
in various British exhibitions, including in the Royal
Festival Hall. She is a member of the Association
of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists of the World
(AMFPA). In May 2003, Lapper was awarded an
MBE for her services to art.
She posed for Marc Quinn for the sculpture Alison
Lapper Pregnant (above). Made of Carrara marble,
it shows Lapper nude and heavily pregnant. It
occupied the fourth plinth in London's Trafalgar
Square between September 2005 and late 2007.
Died This Day:
1739 - Dick Turpin
1891 - P.T. Barnam, who said:
Money is in some respects life's fire: it is a very excellent servant, but a
1947 - Henry Ford, who said:
It is well enough that people of the nation do
not understand our banking and monetary system,
for if they did, I believe there would be a
revolution before tomorrow morning.
1955 - Theda Bara